It may be a little hard to tell as I’m trying to plough through the Wheel of Time and Dresden Files series, but I have been trying to make a conscious effort lately to select more books by women, POCs, and where the two overlap. Since I’m a horribly slow reader and, I reiterate, trying to get through two series authored by white men, the evidence for this shift is still mostly only found in my To Be Read and To Buy lists, where I’ve culled many of the white male authors present, and have started dismissing out of hand recommendations for books with white male authors.
And I’m not the only one. I started doing this after reading an article (lost to the annals of my browser history) in which the author wrote about her realization that the vast majority of the books she had read in her high school English classes had been authored by white men. More recently, heinous Heina has decided to exclusidely read non-male authors in 2015 and non-white authors in 2016 (you can read her explanation of this choice here).
My high school experience was very much as described. The few books that didn’t fit this trend were very tokenistic, the same collection of classics trotted out by every educator who doesn’t want to seem too archaic (To Kill A Mockingbird, Autobiography of Malcolm X, and… that’s it?).
Thankfully, my university reading lists were a bit more diverse. There were still plenty of classes with an entirely male reading list (now that I think about it, those classes were all taught by men), but I had a whole whack of professors who took special care in putting together a broad roster of authors. Best yet, this was also in many of the courses required for my degree, so they were unavoidable.
But what really highlighted the issue for me was when I started to dip my toe into the idea of doing a project like Heina’s. I’ve been wanting to get into SF/F more, because I always enjoyed the genres but never really had access to them. So I started with the “bests” lists, hoping to get through the classics and to move on from there. Unfortunately, those lists tend to be blanched sausage parties, and there’s only so much of that I can get through before I start to feel a little jaded – even when those authors make an effort to have diverse character lists.
When I tried to reach out and ask for recommendations of books not written by white men, only two names were really forthcoming – Ursula Le Guin and Octavia Butler. Both fantastic authors and entirely deserving of their fame, but oh my ghawd, they do not bring balance to the genres!
I’m very glad to see this acknowledged as an issue, and I’ve been especially pleased in just the last year or two to see reading recommendations for non-white/non-male authors become so much more common and accessible. When I first started trying to get into SF/F, it took a lot of googling to find anything beyond Le Guin and Butler. Now there are entire blogs devoted to the discussion.
This has been really meandering and mostly just a word-vomit of my thoughts on the subject. Since there are far better discussions elsewhere, in an effort to provide at least a little value, I thought I might mention some of SF/F books currently on my To Be Read list. Obviously, I can’t recommend any of these because I haven’t read them, but they have been recommended to me and maybe this list will be helpful to someone:
- Ahmed, Saladin: Throne of the Crescent Moon
- Brown, Rachel & Sherwood Smith: Stranger
- Cashore, Kristin: Graceling
- Cherryh, C.J.: Foreigner
- Chima, Cinda Williams: The Wizard Heir trilogy
- Cooper, Susan: The Dark Is Rising sequence
- Croggon, Alison: The Naming
- De Bodard, Aliette: Obsidian and Blood Trilogy
- Delany, Samuel R.: Dhalgren
- Elgin, Suzette Haden: Native Tongue
- Elliott, Kate: Crown of Stars Series
- Fox, Rose & Daniel José Older (ed.): Long Hidden (Anthology)
- Friedman, C.S.: Black Sun Rising
- Gentle, Mary: Grunts
- Griffith, Nicola: Hild
- Hanley, Victoria: The Seer and the Sword
- Hendry, Frances M.: Quest for a Maid
- Hobb, Robin: Liveship Traders Trilogy
- Huff, Tanya: The Fire’s Stone
- Hughes, Monica: The Golden Aquarians
- Hurley, Kameron: The Mirror Empire
- Jemison, N.K.: The Killing Moon
- Kirstein, Rosemary: The Steerswoman
- Liu, Cixin: The Three-Body Problem
- Lo, Malinda: Huntress
- Locke, M.J.: Up Against It
- Lowachee, Karin: Warchild
- Mandel, Emily St. John: Station Eleven
- McKinley, Robin: The Blue Sword
- Melling, O.R.: The Summer King
- Norton, Andre: The Zero Stone
- Pierce, Tamora: Alanna: The First Adventure
- Priest, Cherie: Boneshaker
- Samatar, Sofia: A Stranger in Olondria
- Sargent, Pamela: Earthseed
- Snyder, Maria V.: Poison Study
- Stanton, Mary: Unicorns of Balinor
- Tepper, Sheri S.: The Gate to Women’s Country
- Valente, Catherynne: Deathless
- Wecker, Helene: The Golem and the Jinni